Gauteng hospitals’ maintenance backlogs of R2.5 billion puts the lives of patients and staff at risk

Many of our hospitals are simply falling apart and despite warnings to the Gauteng Department of Health, no steps have been taken since 2017 to remedy the situation. In addition, the longer the facilities deteriorate, the higher the cost to repair the damage.

See pictures here, here, here and here.

An explosive report was presented to the Health Portfolio Committee in Gauteng which highlighted the fact that there is a backlog of maintenance in the facilities that would cost an estimated R2.5 billion to fix.

The report highlights that some of the infrastructure issues may compromise the safety and health of patients, for example, theatres not being available, the inability to sterilise critical equipment, and not being able to provide food to patients.

This is reminiscent of warnings to the national government in 1998 to urgently build additional power-generating capacity. These warnings and recommendations were ignored and today our economy suffers the consequence of electricity shortages.

Whether the abdication of responsibility by the Health Department is based on incompetence or a lack of budget is not known, since the department has not provided input as to their failure.

Much of the mechanical equipment in the hospitals, which includes boilers, chillers, autoclaves, lifts, and generators have reached the end of its service lifespan and must be replaced. For example, of the 86 boilers, 45 have passed their expected service life of 30 years, some of which are more than 55 years old.

There is also a backlog in the refurbishment of facilities to deal with occupational health and safety regulations which are not adhered to.

This is expected to cost an additional 6 to 8 billion Rand to address.

The expectation of residents for a better future has been dashed by a government that has shown itself to be incapable of running a modern province, including the ability to manage infrastructure.

Although the Premier has announced he would remove the maintenance function from the Department of Infrastructure and transfer this responsibility to the health facilities themselves, there is now some doubt as to whether these facilities have the expertise and resources to do so. The DA will ensure that a lack of due diligence in terms of the Premier’s announcement will not exacerbate the already dire condition of health facilities. This is one of many empty promises made by Premier Makhura during his time in office, and it is high time that he vacates the office.

The government has dashed the hopes of citizens by depleting the fiscus to the point that it will take a very long time to plug the backlog. The DA will pressurise the Department of Health to reprioritise its budget to speed up the process of rectifying the maintenance failure.